Startup Culture Flourishes on America’s College Campuses

Today—marking the first full week of National Entrepreneurship Month—the Department of Commerce released a new report entitled The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University, underscoring the increasingly diverse ways in which colleges and universities across America are promoting cultures of entrepreneurship on campus and encouraging students to start companies.

As hubs of learning, networking, mentorship, and creativity, colleges and universities provide particularly fertile ground for the cultivation of world-changing, entrepreneurial ideas. The report released today, which is based on more than 130 interviews with university leaders and builds on prior work by the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, highlights more than 50 of the most promising initiatives that have sprouted up on campuses across the country, including those that promote entrepreneurship among students and faculty; accelerate the transition of research innovations from the lab to the marketplace; and encourage engagement between universities, industry partners, and regional economies.

Of course, because America’s university-based entrepreneurship ecosystem is rapidly expanding and constantly evolving, no single report can capture every promising idea worth replicating. That’s why today, an extraordinary team of undergraduates has launched a new online University Innovation platform through which students can share information about on-campus entrepreneurship programs rapidly and effectively—including what works, what doesn’t, and what’s needed. This public, wiki-editable platform is a special project of Epicenter, a national hub for entrepreneurship and engineering education funded by the National Science Foundation.

Through Epicenter, more than 60 engineering majors from across the Nation have been selected as University Innovation Fellows, with a mission to catalyze more entrepreneurial activity on their respective campuses. These Fellows built the University Innovation platform to empower student leaders to survey entrepreneurship programs at their own schools, check out what’s going on at other schools, and organize fellow students around the most compelling and successful models.

Student entrepreneurship is an important goal of the White House Startup America initiative, which aims to accelerate the success of ambitious startups across the country. In addition to Epicenter, the Federal Government continues to support and coordinate with an array of programs that advance student-led innovation and student entrepreneurship, including: the NSF I-Corps program for training student/faculty teams of scientists to bring new technologies to market; the i6 Challenge to strengthen university-based innovation ecosystems; the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition; the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Innovation Initiative; and most recently, a new competition and innovation prize to promote student entrepreneurs in agriculture.

In his proclamation of this year’s National Entrepreneurship Month, President Obama said:

“Our Nation is strongest when we broaden entrepreneurial opportunity, when more of us can test our ideas in the global marketplace, and when the best innovations can rise to the top. We all have a role to play -- from colleges and universities that cultivate hubs of innovation, to large companies that collaborate with small businesses, to foundations that support both social enterprises and high-impact startups seeking to solve the grand challenges of our time.”

America’s universities and student entrepreneurs are clearly an important part of this all-hands-on-deck effort. Throughout November, and in recognition of National Entrepreneurs’ Day (November 22), OSTP will highlight exciting examples of students leading this entrepreneurial charge.

  • Read the Commerce Department's new report here.
  • Read the Commerce Department's press release here.
  • Read a fact sheet about the report here.

Doug Rand is Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship at OSTP

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